If you missed Part 1, you can read that here: https://threemusesclothing.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/from-website-to-brick-and-mortar-boutique-part-1/
The economy was in a serious downswing when I decided to open a store. Fortunately for me, I had a website that sold to every corner of the globe. During my first few years international sales accounted for nearly a third of my business.
Advancing a business during a recession is an interesting experience, but it’s a great opportunity to seize. Stores are empty so rent is low and space is available everywhere. I found a spot close to my house with a good price on rent and a shorter commitment than usual. Of course I needed to fill the retail space with fixtures and racks. Luckily a lot of big stores were closing and selling everything inside, racks and all! At Linens and Things I found towers and gondola shelving that would normally cost $500-$700 going for $200 including all the shelves and brackets. I got a glass case and register stand at a discount warehouse, a couple fancy chairs off eBay, a big dressing room mirror at Sam’s and all the racks on the wall are actually closet pieces from Lowes.
It’s hard to believe how empty the store was when I first opened! Slowly over the years I’ve added more racks, tables and cases. During the first year I was mostly in the store by myself and I didn’t even have a credit card machine for sales. I had a laptop and would ring everyone up through Paypal. My total store sales for my first month in business was a whopping $5, not counting the grand opening party. I was open for two years before I finally got a real credit card machine.
Over the years I’ve had help from interns, my grandmother and a brief period where I had three employees at once. I’ve had weird hours only open a few days, normal Monday through Saturday hours and tried appointment-only hours last year when everything was driving me crazy and I was ready to close up shop.
A couple years ago Brema started as an unpaid intern and eventually worked her way up to store manager. Even when it is quiet upfront, there is so much going on in the background of the business that I never stop moving. She’s the one you see upfront smiling and helping customers while I’m zooming around in the background talking to myself. We’ve reached a pretty good symbiotic relationship that keeps things running smoothly.
So five years later, here we are! We’ve busted a hole through the wall and taken over the suite next door. We are relishing all the open space. It’s great to be able to work without tripping over each other and to be able to roll entire bolts of fabric out and cut giant patterns easily. There are times when every inch of the new space is covered with feathers and fabric and glitter, and times when we have it all neat with things boxed away. The store part is creeping over to the new side a little, which you’ve seen if you’ve ever visited the “super sale” rack behind the counter. We may even eventually rearrange things and incorporate that side a little more, but for now, we are just enjoying the luxury of open space.
Come celebrate 5 years of the boutique with us on Jan. 31st from 5-8. We’ll have drinks and snacks and lots and lots of store sales and specials!